Last updated: July 25. 2013 9:13AM - 368 Views

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Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) has sent a letter, listing endorsements for his Neighborhood Safety Act to Ohio Governor John Kasich. Among those endorsements is Portsmouth City Health Commissioner Chris Smith.

Last week Portman introduced the Neighborhood Safety Act, legislation that would allow municipalities and land banks to tap-into additional funds to demolish vacant structures, which pose a growing threat to the public safety and economic well-being of Ohio’s communities.

“We’re very supportive of it,” Smith said. “The land bank has been an excellent program for the city.”

Tuesday, Portman sent a letter to Kasich urging him to aggressively pursue all options that would enable Ohio to tap into additional funds to demolish vacant structures, which he says pose a “growing threat to the public safety and economic well-being of our communities.”

Portman said the state of Michigan recently reached a landmark agreement with the U.S. Department of Treasury to allow the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to create a blight elimination program for demolition purposes using Michigan’s Hardest Hit Fund allotment.

“It is my understanding that Ohio has used less than 40 percent of its $570 million allotment since the funds were made available over three years ago,” Portman said in his letter to Kasich. “Given that the Hardest Hit Fund is intended to aid struggling homeowners and distressed neighborhoods, it only seems consistent that this fund could also be used for demolition purposes by state housing finance agencies, such as the Ohio Housing Finance Authority that is responsible for distributing these funds in our state.”

Portman drove the point home by summing up his efforts this way: “Ohio cities need more resources to demolish abandoned homes that dot the streets of too many communities. The Obama administration recently reached a landmark agreement with the state of Michigan to open the Hardest Hit Fund for demolition purposes, and I urge the state of Ohio to reach a similar agreement,” Portman said. “But given the uncertainty in this process, I will also continue to lead a legislative effort to permanently allow these funds to be used for demolition.”

Portman said his Neighborhood Safety Act legislation has, since being introduced, been endorsed by Smith, as well as mayors in Lima, Mansfield, Middletown, Warren and Youngstown, as well as the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority.

Portman said more than $7 billion of Hardest Hit funds have been appropriated, but are not presently allowed to be used for demolition in such states as Ohio. States that experienced the sharpest decline in home prices during the economic downturn received these funds to help struggling homeowners refinance.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.

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